Use of portable exposimeters to monitor radiofrequency electromagnetic field exposure in the everyday environment

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Abstract

Background

Spatial and temporal distribution of radiofrequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) levels in the environment is highly heterogeneous. It is thus not entirely clear how to monitor spatial variability and temporal trends of RF-EMF exposure levels in the environment in a representative and efficient manner. The aim of this study was to test a monitoring protocol for RF-EMF measurements in public areas using portable devices.

Methods

Using the ExpoM-RF devices mounted on a backpack, we have conducted RF-EMF measurements by walking through 51 different outdoor microenvironments from 20 different municipalities in Switzerland: 5 different city centers, 5 central residential areas, 5 non-central residential areas, 15 rural residential areas, 15 rural centers and 6 industrial areas. Measurements in public transport (buses, trains, trams) were collected when traveling between the areas. Measurements were conducted between 25th March and 11th July 2014. In order to evaluate spatial representativity within one microenvironment, we measured two crossing paths of about 1 km in length in each microenvironment. To evaluate repeatability, measurements in each microenvironment were repeated after two to four months on the same paths.

Results

Mean RF-EMF exposure (sum of 15 main frequency bands between 87.5 and 5,875 MHz) was 0.53 V/m in industrial zones, 0.47 V/m in city centers, 0.32 V/m in central residential areas, 0.25 V/m non-central residential areas, 0.23 V/m in rural centers and rural residential areas, 0.69 V/m in trams, 0.46 V/m in trains and 0.39 V/m in buses. Major exposure contribution at outdoor locations was from mobile phone base stations (>80% for all outdoor areas with respect to the power density scale). Temporal correlation between first and second measurement of each area was high: 0.89 for total RF-EMF, 0.90 for all five mobile phone downlink bands combined, 0.51 for all five uplink bands combined and 0.79 for broadcasting. Spearman correlation between arithmetic mean values of the first path compared to arithmetic mean of the second path within the same microenvironment was 0.75 for total RF-EMF, 0.76 for all five mobile phone downlink bands combined, 0.55 for all five uplink bands combined and 0.85 for broadcasting (FM and DVB-T).

Conclusions

This study demonstrates that microenvironmental surveys using a portable device yields highly repeatable measurements, which allows monitoring time trends of RF-EMF exposure over an extended time period of several years and to compare exposure levels between different types of microenvironments.

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